Rejoicing in Hope

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It’s amazing—and sad—how quickly I lose sight of what’s really important.  Of course last week was a bit stressful and tiring, but on the whole, it was a great first week back.  The rollercoaster was ever-present, of course: one class ended on such a high note; the very next had me feeling quite out of my depth, and so on.  In the midst of it all, the beautiful weather allowed for some lovely walks.

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After a restful weekend, I started this week feeling quite balanced.  But it didn’t take long for my focus to drift!  The littlest things can make me worry, and I’m ashamed to admit that I can go from rejoicing in the eternal truths of the Gospel to thinking I have control over things I don’t.  Yet as Jesus reminds me in Luke 12:22-31—

Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!  And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

I know I’ve shared those verses here before, and not even that long ago!  Yet how easily I forget the truth of them.  When I came back to this passage today, I was especially struck by what follows in verse 32: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  O that my mind were less easily distracted by the cares of this world!  When I reflect on the hope I have in Christ, all these other things that can worry me or frighten me pale in comparison; as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18—

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Light momentary affliction.  The letters contained in the New Testament were written by Paul, John, Peter, and the others in times of great—humanly speaking—affliction.  They were tortured, imprisoned, exiled, threatened with death and, ultimately, most of them were put to death.  Light momentary affliction—if Paul can say that in the midst of what he was going through, how much more should I be able to look not to the cares of this world but to the eternal promises of God!

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Today, I had the happy occasion to remember that our celebration of the Resurrection is not that far away.  What a wonderful blessing to have these next several weeks to meditate on the gift of salvation that Christ provides through His sacrifice!  This morning, I read Romans 5:1-5 (and of course thought of “Hail the King” by Citizens).  I was convicted of my failure to rejoice in the hope that has been given to me.  And what a hope!  It’s a sure hope—something that I know will be fulfilled.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we also have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

And here I was just getting ready to grumble and complain about the work that’s been set before me.  You all have full license to remind me this week of these five verses if you catch me complaining.  I live in an amazingly beautiful country.  I’m surrounded by such diversity of people, of languages, of cultures.  I have the opportunity to take fascinating classes from fantastic professors.  I have a stack of books to read.  I even have yarn and a crochet hook (I find it ironic that I finally got around to making slippers just as the weather decided to get springlike).  Most importantly of all, I stand justified before my Creator.  I can love Him because of the love He showed me; I can love others because of that same love; I can die to self because of Christ’s sacrifice, living no longer for my own agenda but for His glory; I can become each day more like Him because He has given the Scriptures—and all these things I can do imperfectly, failing and falling and getting up and trying again, because of His abundant grace.

So I rejoice, as in Psalm 98:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
    he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
    let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

Amen.  May this week the praises of my King be ever on my lips.  It’s not easy, but Christ didn’t say it would be.  Indeed, He promised difficulties, hence the suffering that produces endurance that produces character that produces hope.  By His grace, I will keep my eyes fixed on Him, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God.

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